Sunday, February 27, 2005

My "HOLLYWOOD" Civic Pride

I hope that my articles have not only shown my love of Television but also my love of Hollywood. Not only do I love the Hollywood that serves as a euphemism for everything associated with the Entertainment Industry, but the city of Hollywood itself. I love my city and it's history. This is after all where I live and work. (Actually I live in the city and work in the euphemism) In fact I even state in my “The Pre-ramble” ,

"I live in Hollywood, California and am tired of members of my community being described as amoral and trying to undermine the fabric of the American family."

A couple of weeks ago I was coming home from work, and I saw right next to the Frederick’s of Hollywood building I saw this billboard from an organization called Citizens United.

Citizens United - Thank Hollywood for George W. Bush's Re-election!

If this type of statement was made to any other city it would be considered out of line, but because of some moral high ground it’s always open season on my town. Okay I forgot Las Vegas. Usually these people say, "The just have to pay for the sinners". Even though I can’t find that quote in the bible. Quick search: the just have to pay for the sinners
Anyone with half a brain can read my column and see where I stand on things. Speaking of people with half a brain, I wrote the following letter to the people of Citizens United.

Dear Citizens United,

My name is Tony Figueroa and I am a resident of Hollywood CA. I am happily married and a productive member of society. I believe in free speech, free expression and free enterprise. I am tired of members of my community being described as amoral, trying to undermine the fabric of the American family or whatever other narrow minded generalization you come up with. So you can understand that I was very offended when walking home from work on Hollywood Blvd. I saw one of your billboards.

You are certainly not being gracious winners. I felt like you were giving me, and my neighbors, the middle finger with that message. So where is the morality that you profess to have? By your admission you did this to see us squirm, so where is that compassion that you claim to have. On your own web site you say,

"Citizens United's goal is to restore the founding father's vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens."

One must question whether your billboard campaign is even covered under the protected free speech that the founding fathers had in mind since again you did this to see us squirm.

If you have a grievance with an individual or group then address them, but I have never said or done anything to you. You have no right to send your hate filled message to my town. I certainly would not send a message to all of Washington D.C. calling them a bunch of narrow minded, delusional, bigoted, intolerant, conservative morons, when that message is solely intended for the members of Citizens United, because I am bigger than that.

Tony Figueroa

PS: I fail to see that "honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens" that you profess to have either.

I saw the Oscar broadcast and nobody squirmed.

To quote Bill Maher (Host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher"), "Hollywood isn't your cesspool, America, it's your mirror".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Thursday, February 24, 2005

My Witness to Television History and Jeff. (Click PODCAST)

As a child growing up in Hollywood we, got to take some great school field trips. We would go to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater or the Mark Taper Forum to see plays, the ballet and the opera. In the late 70's budgets for these field trips were cut. So now our trips consisted of going to NBC Burbank to see a taping of "Real People" . One day (Nov. 1979), my drama class from Bancroft Junior High School went to NBC Burbank to see a pilot for a new show called "Pink Lady". The show featured two Japanese girls (a singing duo called Pink Lady) Mie (Mitsuyo Nemoto) and Kei (Keiko Masuda) who were a big hit in Japan giving sell out concerts. Someone (Fred Silverman) thought that they could conquer American television and gave them a Variety Show.

NOTE TO READERS: The era of the Variety Show was not dead yet but on life support.

The girls were teamed up with a talented comedian named Jeff Altman who served as comic relief and emcee. We watched poor Jeff Altman trying to do some comedic banter with these two girls who could barley speak English. This banter was so bad that it made the bad pre-scripted banter given by award show presenters look like an evening with Nichols and May.

We could hear every bad World War II joke imaginable from the audience and the back stage crew. These jokes became even more funny when Jeff introduced the girl's who were going to sing a traditional Japanese song. The girls came out in kimonos and sang a few bars in Japanese. Then they ripped off their kimonos to reveal skimpy sailor outfits. A backdrop rises from the floor giving the appearance that they are on the deck of a battle ship. The girls break into the Village People's "In the Navy". Followed by more banter with Jeff (See quote below).

The show ended with the girls dragging Jeff kicking and screaming into a hot tub. What young heterosexual male would turn down an invitation into a hot tub by two sexy bikini clad Japanese girls in the pre safe sex world of the late 70s early 80s? Just as Jeff is starting to enjoy himself in the hot tub when a big guy (Ed Nakamoto) immerges from the water dressed as a samurai.

Who knew that we would be the first to witness a show that would later make many "Worst TV Show Lists". Actually the show we saw would be re-shot on a different stage but sadly most of the material was used again.

The best part of the day was in between scenes where Jeff Altman kept my drama class entertained by doing his boxer (Leonard Moon) character, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Johnny Carson. He also did some of his Stand-up routine including some blue and pot material. It would be years before we were old enough to see that type or performance at the Comedy Store. For my friends and I, who at the time dreamt of being the next Robin Williams or Not Ready for Prime Time Player, we were amazed at his talent. We loved that he did not talk down to us. He showed us the professionalism that our drama teacher Mr. Holland tried to teach us. I got to meet Jeff Altman years later at a comedy club, but I didn't want to mention the show.

Thank you, Jeff for the field trip.

To quote Jeff Altman (speaking to the girls after the "In the Navy" number), "I didn't know that your honorable ancestors had Boogie Fever".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: I also want to thank my friend Richard who gave a Pink Lady and Jeff DVD that brought back all these memories. - Pink Lady - Pink Lady. And Jeff

Friday, February 18, 2005

It's all about the Children.

I am constantly being told that when I become a parent that my views on the world would change. I promise that if and when that happens I will write about it. Until then I can only comment on what I remember from my childhood and what I see now. When I was a child I was watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news. The graphic depiction of war came to us every night at dinnertime. This was BC (Before Cable). I remember my grandparents talking about "The War" (WWII), never specifying which war. Come on, I was five years old. I didn’t know that these were two totally different wars, and that my dad’s war, Korea, was a totally different war wedged in between the other two. I thought that there was always a war going on someplace and we all had to take turns visiting it. So I had this great fear of going off to war when I grew up. When Grandma told me I was born in an army hospital, believing I would think it was neat. I didn’t, I was pissed. I’d seen those images on the news. I thought I was born on the set of M*A*S*H*. Those images of war lasted longer in my mind and nightmares than any monster movie or any act of staged violence I had ever seen on TV. I also remember knowing the difference between real and make believe. I saw news as serious business. It was like cod liver oil, you didn't like it but knew it was good for you. What was on the news was real, everything else on TV you watched for fun. I'd like to think that today’s kids are able to make the same distinction between real and make believe that I did, in fact kids today should be more sophisticated now than they were in my time. I am also sure that kid's know the difference between The actress on "Alias" (Jennifer Garner) beating up somebody and a real person beating up somebody on one of the many daytime talk shows.

It is my feeling that kids are more harmed by real events than by programs produced for our entertainment. I don't remember seeing the Apollo 13 mission (April 11-17, 1970) on TV when it happened. I found out later that my grandparents made sure that I was nowhere near the TV while that event was being covered just in case something horrible would have happened. Today when we have 24-hour news channels where parents can have nonstop coverage of the events of September 11th, a school shooting or the recent Tsunami in Asia. Kid's should not be exposed to an event where some could die on live TV. Also kids might not understand that the event that they are watching is happening thousand of miles away or they are watching the same buildings coming down being replayed over and over again when they might think that these are new buildings coming down.

I don't blame the News for showing this, I blame the parents for having it on all the time. Wait, did I just use the "P" word? I never see the Parental Watchdog Groups place any onus on the parents. Instead they get better media exposure for their cause when they attack a number one rated show, a cartoon sponge, or Janet Jackson's breast. That one breast, in one halftime show, has gotten more attention than both of Dolly Parton's breasts have gotten for the past thirty years.

Speaking of celebrity exposure. My favorite example of celebrity exposure comes from an episode of "Three's Company" that aired on Nick at Nite a few years ago. The episode originally aired in 1983 and has been shown countless times since. The scene features Jack Tripper (John Ritter) dressed in blue boxers sitting on his bed and for a split second he accidentally exposes one third of the Full Monty. A viewer notices this with the help of his suffocated VCR's pausing capability. The viewer notified the cable network outraged that Nickelodeon would show this when children could be watching. Nickelodeon digitally corrected the scene.

To quote John Ritter in the New York Observer over the incident, "I've requested that (Nickelodeon) air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't."

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Friday, February 11, 2005

My letter to Mr. Garry Shandling.

Dear Readers,

Following the passing of Johnny Carson I started thinking of a dark time in television history called "The Late Night Talk Show Wars". If you are too young to remember this event, it came after the Cola Wars, the War on Drugs, and the War on Illiteracy. Books and even a TV movie have covered the chain of events that happened after Johnny Carson announced his retirement as the host of the "Tonight Show" leading to an east coast-west coast battle for the show. If you didn’t know better you would think that I was talking about a couple of rap artists and not a couple of comedians. The biggest causality of this war was the long time friendship of Jay Leno and David Letterman. I realize that we can’t return to the time pictured below, but there is still a chance for a new beginning. As the "Child of Television" I would like to dedicate some of my efforts to reuniting two old friends

To quote Sgt. Hans Schultz (John Banner) from Hogan's Heroes, "When it comes to war, I never take sides".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

Dear Mr. Shandling,

I feel that you are the only viable candidate to act as peacemaker between these two warring camps. I am speaking of course of Mr. Leno and Mr. Letterman.

Mr. Carson is gone. The "Late Night Talk Show War" has long been over, and even a key player in starting the war is gone too. As a fan of yours, Mr. Leno's, Mr. Letterman's and the late Mr. Carson's I feel like I have been dealing with two divorced friends and not knowing who to invite to the Christmas party. It's awkward to see them both at the same function, the Emmys for example, where they maintain a safe distance from each other. Milestones have passed where it would have been great to see them together again.

In a time when our country is divided into Red States and Blue States, I find it ironic that the two main people that we turn to at the end of a long day to escape the craziness of everyday life are just as divided as our country. The one thing that that HBO movie "The Late Shift" failed to capture was the long time friendship that was lost following the events that happened after Mr. Carson announced his retirement.

I know it is easier to burn bridges than to mend fences, but if Martin & Lewis could reconcile publicly before it was too late, then I have every confidence that you can broker a peace between Jay and Dave.

Respectfully yours,

Tony Figueroa

Friday, February 04, 2005


Let me repeat a portion of my "Pre-Ramble"

When I was born people had breakfast with Barbara Walters, dinner with Walter Cronkite, and slept with Johnny Carson.

That statement dates me. There is now a whole new generation that doesn't get that statement. To them Johnny Carson was the guy who just died, Barbara Walters is the older woman on "The View" and Walter Who? When I mention Freddie Prinze they think that he's the guy who married Buffy. They didn’t understand why I was bothered last year when Captain Kangaroo's (Bob Keeshan) passing was given a ten second mention on the entertainment news shows while ten minutes was dedicated to the Ben & J.Lo break up. I tried in vain to explain that Captain Kangaroo was to children's television what Johnny Carson was to late night television. Around that same time we were discussing production beginning on "Meet the Fockers". I mentioned that it would have been cool if Ben Stiller's real parents (Jerry Stiller & Ann Mera) played the Fockers. A fifteen-year-old girl asked, "Ben Stiller's parents are famous?" I explained that Jerry Stiller on "The King of Queens" and Ann Mera who was recently on "Sex in the City" are Ben Stiller's parents. They used to be part of a comedy team called "Stiller & Mera". I got no response. I then mentioned that they were as big as Nichols & May (Mike Nichols and Elaine May). Still no response. They appeared regularly on The Ed Sullivan Show. Again no response. I was told that I spoke with Dennis Miller obscurity. It's frustrating that the generation that succeeded mine doesn’t care about anything that happened before they were born. Hey, I wasn't alive during World War II, but I know who won.

The other frustrating part about being a Child of Television turning forty, besides looking at how old the guys from "Happy Days" are now - Happy Days 30th Anniversary Reunion, is what I call the "Gilmore Girls" factor. Recently I met this young girl who was 18-19 years old. She was wearing very tight jeans, T-shirt, and looking very hot. A few minutes later I met her mother, dressed the same way, equally hot. I realized, I'm more attracted to the mom than to the daughter. How did that happen? I then realized the mom is my age. Oh my God, I'm old enough to be that girl's father. If I were that girl's father, I wouldn't let her leave the house dressed that way. Doesn't she know that there are forty-year-old men staring at her? What the hell just happened to me? I know that age is cruel, but this is hitting below the belt.

To quote Jennifer Aniston in a recent interview, "Forty is the new Thirty", and 4 out of 5 "Desperate Housewives" agree.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

PS: Since my birthday falls on "Super Bowl Sunday" I might miss the game and half time show. If anything scandalous should happen, please keep me a breast.